The Star Onions ~ Final Fantasy XI - Music from the Other Side of Vana'diel

[back cover]
Catalog Number: SQEX-10050
Released On: August 24, 2005
Composed By: Naoshi Mizuta, Kumi Tanioka
Arranged By: The Star Onions (Naoshi Mizuta, Masato Koda, Kumi Tanioka)
Published By: Square Enix
Recorded At: Studio Form, Paradise Studio, VOX RECORDERS
Format: 1 CD
Buy this CD from Play-Asia

01 - Vana'diel March
02 - Metalworks
03 - Rolanberry Fields
04 - Kazham
05 - The Forgotten City - Tavnazian Safehold
06 - Mog House
07 - The Sanctuary of Zi'Tah
08 - Awakening
09 - Selbina
10 - Blessed in Her Glorious Light -The Grand Duchy of Jeuno-
Total Time:

Of all the months in 2005, I can already safely say that none of them will have as much hype as August did. During the second to last week in the month, the "big five" soundtracks were released (Grandia III, Shadow Hearts:FTNW, Near Death Experience, FFXI: The Star Onions, and Tales of Legendia). Of the five, I had predicted that ToL would come out on top, but I didn't pay much attention to the new FFXI arrange album. While Legendia was a pleasant listen, FFXI ~ The Other Side of Vana'diel was the biggest surprise of the week.

Do you like jazz? Easy listening? R&B? What about gospel? It's all here, and extremely well done. The music is performed by the "Star Onions," a band led by Square Enix composers, consisting of Naoshi Mizuta, Kumi Tanioka, Tsuyoshi Sekito, and a few others. Each one of them plays an instrument, and they sound like professionals.

There's just so many things about this album that I love: the variety of styles, the instrumentation, the quality of the arrangements, and so much more. My favorite track is "Selbina," which is a R&B/gospel/soul arrangement unlike anything you've ever heard before. This is one of those slow jams you can play to your girlfriend. I'm a big fan of the piano work. "Kazham" is another beast, though. It's a jazz arrangement laden with a tenor sax, flute, and electric guitar. The heavy rock introduction is pretty misleading, but the song itself is pretty aggressive for a jazz track. And I can't forget to mention "Blessed in Her Glorious Light," which is a gospel vocal track, which, to my recollection, has never been done before in VGM. This is the best gospel track I've ever heard. And I hate gospel. I could go into more tracks, but give the samples a listen and form your own opinion.

The bottom line? Buy this, now. FFXI: The Star Onions is the "Chrono Trigger: Brink of Time" for the FF series. There's never been anything like it before it, and there will never will be anything like it again, unless the Star Onions do it. It's a high caliber soundtrack that will please even the most hardcore FF anti-fanboys. I'm giving it a 10 out of 10.

Reviewed by: Mike Wilson

Final Fantasy XI - Music from the Other Side of Vana'diel, the game's very first arranged album, has arrived. The Star Onions (a band originally forumlated in order to perform in a concert celebrating the release of Final Fantasy XI Chains of Promathia, September 2004) are responsible for both the arrangement and performance of the pieces. The various members, who include Naoshi Mizuta (Parasite Eve II, Rockman & Forte) and Kumi Tanioka (Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon 2), provide an eclectic approach to musical arrangement, spanning the main game and both expansions: Rise of the Zilart and Chains of Promathia.

With a playtime exceeding 2200 hours in Final Fantasy XI, I approached this album with a mixture of burning curiosity and morbid hesitation. After hearing these songs in-game literally hundreds of times over the past couple years, one cannot help but manage to become intimately familiar with them, almost to a fault. I listened, and...

...well, the album could be described as a "mixed bag" - not only because of the track selections, but because of the wide variety of musical genres which are drawn upon and weaved into the arrangements. The album, unfortunately, does not have a clear theme in mind; tracks such as "Awakening," an intense synth-heavy piece which accompanies the Battle with the Shadowlord (Rank Mission 5-2 - Xarcabard, Land of Truths), are sandwiched uncomfortably between the jazz-influenced arrangement of "The Sanctuary of Zi'tah" and the easy-listening arrangement of "Selbina." As a whole, Music from the Other Side of Vana'diel jumps around much more than anticipated, with the rollercoaster ride coming to a conclusion with the soul vocal rendition of "The Grand Duchy of Jeuno," to which Aundrea Hopkins lends her vocal talent (Bemani fans may recognize the name from her various collaborations with good-cool). In its own right, each track is a masterpiece; however, they have understandable difficulties coming together to form a cohesive whole.

I recommend Final Fantasy XI - Music from the Other Side of Vana'diel in the same manner which I would recommend Chrono Trigger The Brink of Time. It's an unusual compilation, that's for sure. But it's good stuff.

Reviewed by: Ryan Mattich